Solar energy has gained popularity over the years as a clean, renewable source of power with the potential to lower our reliance on fossil fuels. You may have seen friends or neighbors install rooftop solar systems and wondered, Is switching to solar worth it? In this article, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy to help you make an informed decision.
What are the advantages of solar energy?
When discussing the pros and cons of solar energy, it’s hard to ignore the many benefits. Here are a few of the main advantages of solar.
1. Solar energy is renewable and sustainable.
First and foremost, solar power is a type of renewable energy. Unlike finite fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, energy from the sun is virtually inexhaustible.
In theory, the potential for solar is huge: every day, the Earth receives solar energy equivalent of about 200,000 times the world’s total daily electric-generating capacity. However, the high cost to collect, convert and store it remain limitations of solar energy becoming our predominant energy source.
2. Solar panels have low operating costs.
Once your solar system is installed, there are usually minimal maintenance costs, like the periodic cleaning. Most rooftop solar systems have operating lives of up to 30 years of more. Plus, reputable solar installers offer warranties for up to 25 years or longer, providing you with peace of mind about your long-term investment.
3. Using solar energy can help reduce your electricity bills.
When you generate your own electricity with rooftop solar panels, you can reduce your reliance on the electricity grid. This should result in lower monthly energy expenses. And if you produce more electricity than you use in your home, you can even resell your excess energy back to the grid for bill credits.
4. Solar can help you become more energy independent.
In 2022, the U.S. experienced a 2.6% year-over-year electricity demand to meet heating and cooling needs amid a hotter summer and a colder-than-usual winter. With your solar panels, you’re less dependent on the grid. This means you’re less vulnerable to market volatility, price increases and power disruptions.
5. Solar power is better for the planet than fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels emit harmful greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. By powering your home with solar energy, you can reduce your carbon footprint and help combat climate change. Ways that solar helps the environment include:
- Lower emissions: The lifecycle emissions per kilowatt hour of electricity produced by rooftop solar are around 20 times less than electricity generated by coal. Lower emissions lead to better air quality, improving human and animal health.
- Less land use: Rooftop solar energy doesn’t require any additional land, and placing solar panels above crops and livestock areas may increase yields by shading plants and animals and retaining ground moisture.
- Less noise pollution: Noise pollution is linked to stress-related illnesses, high blood pressure, sleep disruption and more. Other than the noise related to manufacturing and installing, solar panels are virtually noiseless since they don’t have moving parts or combustion.
6. Rooftop solar has become more affordable in recent years.
In addition to materials becoming more affordable over the years, there are also government incentives, tax credits and rebates available to encourage more homeowners to adopt solar energy. These financial benefits can greatly reduce the upfront costs of installing a solar system.
One example is the Residential Clean Energy Credit. This provides a tax credit of 30% of the cost of new, qualified clean energy property (like solar panels) installed anytime from 2022-2032. For installations in 2033, the credit drops to 26%; and installations in 2034 receive a 22% credit.
What are the drawbacks of solar energy?
As you can see, solar energy offers many advantages — environmental, financial and practical. However, to get a more complete view of solar power, we will now look at a few of the current drawbacks or limitations of solar energy.
1. The high initial cost of installing solar can put it out of reach for many.
Despite government tax incentives and falling material costs, solar can be cost-prohibitive for many homeowners. The average cost of installing solar panels in the U.S. is more than $31,000 (before tax credits and other incentives).
2. Solar power is an intermittent source of energy.
A common question asked about solar energy is, Do solar panels work at night? The answer is no — at night, there’s no sunlight for solar panels to capture and convert. Although they can generate some energy from light sources such as streetlights and the moon, the output is very low. They also don’t work as effectively on cloudy days.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t run your electronics on energy created from your home during these times. Many solar panel systems are paired with storage solutions, like batteries, to draw from when the panels are less- or non-productive.
And if you don’t opt for solar storage, you still have other options. You can use power from the electricity grid or even a backup generator to fill in as needed.
3. Solar panels come with their own environmental impact.
Solar is a sustainable, renewable energy option while operating. But solar panel manufacturing does involve materials and energy.
And what happens to solar panels once their efficiency has waned and they need to be replaced? End-of-life management of solar panels is an important aspect of solar energy, so panels don’t become a “waste mountain.”
4. Not everyone loves the look of rooftop solar.
A concern some people have is that solar panels are not aesthetically pleasing. They wonder, will solar panels affect the look and resale value of a home?
As solar technology has advanced, so have the designs. Some companies now make frameless designs that appear to float on the roof without the metal framework underneath. Other companies are even creating solar systems that blend into a roof’s color and structure.
Given the pros and cons of solar, is solar worth it?
Whether it will be worth it for you to switch to solar depends on many, many factors. The best way to evaluate your home’s solar potential, your costs and your long-term savings opportunity is to get in touch with reputable solar installers in your area.
Green Mountain Energy and Reliant Energy are two trusted electricity providers in Texas that partner with solar installers. They also offer competitive energy plans once you have your solar array installed.
The decision to go solar shouldn’t be made in haste. Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy, you can continue investigating whether rooftop solar is right for your home.
In the meantime, you can still power your home with solar energy — no panels required. Simply shop for electricity providers that offer solar energy plans.